For the first time, I feel a lot of anxiety about our country. It’s because of recent events. I suspect that most people, regardless of their political views, have seen, read, or experienced events that left them shaking their head if not sick to their stomach. I worry that we’ve become so bitterly divided that a reconciliation may not be possible, at least not anytime soon. There’s just so much anger and resentment that will be extremely hard to overcome.

I find a lot of solace in music. It makes me wonder if at some level, in some way, shape, or form, music might be the answer to bridging some problems and healing some wounds. That’s because everyone seems to share a passion for music. It’s not always the same artists, songs, or genres, but there’s probably some overlap between any two people.

I imagine that if you randomly took two people, no matter how politically or demographically different, and made a Venn diagram of their music, you’d find common ground. Maybe finding things like music that we have in common with others is a good starting point for building a friendship or a least some level of trust.

For example, when I go to concerts, music is shared and consumed by thousands of people singing along and getting along. It makes me realize that people from across all ideologies can come together, and even form connections, over music.

Interestingly, or maybe ironically, a song popped up on my YouTube playlist last week from Frank Zappa called “Trouble Every Day.” The lyrics talk about social injustice, racial conflict, and sensationalist journalism. Zappa wrote the song in 1965 after watching the Watts Riots on TV. The riots, ignited by a traffic stop, resulted in 34 deaths, more than 1,000 injuries, about 4,000 arrests, and 1,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. This happened before I was born, yet the song profoundly captures current issues.

I’ve read that music affects all parts of your brain, although there appears to be some debate about whether that’s scientifically true or not. Regardless, science does confirm that music impacts brain function and human behavior. It’s been shown to reduce stress, pain, and symptoms of depression. That’s not surprising. I always feel better when I listen to music.

Science also found that your favorite music triggers the same type of activity in your brain as other peoples' favorite tunes do in their brains. It doesn’t matter if the music is Tori Amos, Iron Maiden, or Mozart. All people react the same way to their favorites, and sometimes various songs bring out different feelings, emotions, or memories.

“Music is primal. It affects all of us, but in very personal, unique ways,” said Jonathan Burdette, M.D, a neuroradiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in an article for ScienceDaily. “Your interaction with music is different than mine, but it’s still powerful.”

I’ve found that turning off the news and turning on music, by myself or with others, is having a significant and positive effect on my mental health. I highly recommend it.

Brett Martin is a community columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.


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